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It is sin, my brethren, which gives death its sting. And this it does, by representing to our minds a violated law, and an angry God. But the Christian is instructed to repose upon One, by whom the utmost requirements of the law were satisfied; and through whose merits and mediation God is reconciled. Justified by faith, he has peace with God; for there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Not only is the fear of punishment cast out, but a sense of the greatness of the Divine mercy inspires in his mind thanksgiving and perfect love; and is productive of the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.
Contemplating the goodness of him who so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, the true believer is content to intrust with him all his wishes, his prospects, his apprehensions, and his fears. And when he casts forward his view upon the eternity which is before him—the vast, the unbounded, the shoreless eternity—though“ shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it;" yet there, as here, he beholds the presence of a Father-a Father recon
a ciled and propitiated-a Father solicitous for the welfare of his creatures, and not merely willing, but able, to effect it; able to keep that which is committed to him against that day. Regarding his almighty power, the Christian is encouraged
triumphantly to ask, If God be for me, who can be against me? And when he reflects also upon his unalterable loce, he is enabled to add, “I am
persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things pre
sent, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, “nor any other creature, shall be able to separate
me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus 4 our Lord."
” Thus is he privileged to repose upon God, even in the approach of dissolution, and in the view of the grave; and while his wasting body is more and more enfeebled, while his strength continually decays, while daily he sees perish the outward man, with a spirit tranquil, serene, and joyful, he is enabled to take up that sublime and animating declaration, which belongs only to Christians, “We know that if our earthly house “ of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a build
ing of God, an house not made with hands, 66 eternal in the heavons." Looking forward a little to the period when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, he rises above all timid apprehensions of death and the grave, and with his parting breath rejoicing in the hope by which he is sustained, he utters the impassioned exclamation, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
This serenity, this peace, this triumph, must
be acknowledged to offer a sufficient motive to desire to die the death of the righteous. The ground and the certainty of their hopes form the second thing to be considered. The ultimale ground of the Christian's hope can only be in the perfect and all-availing sacrifice of Jesus Christ; for there is no other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved; but that which immediately imparts confidence and assurance, that which gives certainty to his hope, and makes it reasonable, and without which it is but a false expectation, and a vain presumption, is the mighty change wrought in him by the power of the Holy Ghost, the renovation of his character and dispositions, the meetness for the inheritance which is promised, the fitness of his soul for the spiritual enjoyment to which he aspires. The natural and unrenewed man-he who has habitually pursued only his earthly inclination and desires, unconscious of that transforming of the mind which lifts it up to heavenly things—though during life he may seem to enjoy the world more than the Christian, and though at death he may seem to be insensible to fear, is a person of very different capacity and qualifications, and of very different prospects, from him whose aims are elevated, whose desires are pure, whose affections are holy, and whose aspirations and views have been habitually directed to heaven, eternity, and God.
When the understanding has been enlightened, so that sin appears odious, and obedience lovely; when the things which are seen come to be regarded but as temporal, and the things unseen as eternal; when religion, raising the vail from futurity, has impressed upon the imagination that faith which is the substance, the confidence, of things hoped for, the evidencc of things not seen; when the will has been disciplined, and taught to submit to God, to acquiesce in his dispensations, and to honour his authority; and when the affections, habitually set on things above, have learned to love what God commands, and to desire that which he doth promise ; when converted, and become as a little child, an individual has been, as to all his moral powers and dispositions, reclaimed from nature, and born again to God; in a word, when once the Christian character has been formed, and its lineaments developed, there is such a transformation and change that the man has become a new creature; he is born again of an incorruptible seed; he has acquired the principle of a better life; and assimilated to God, fitted for the converse of angels, is now no more a stranger and a foreigner, but a fellow citizen of the saints and of the household of God. His conversation is already in heaven, and he himself a denizen of the skies. This man shall never taste of death. All that in nature is destruction, will be powerless to do him hurt. Affliction shall but purify and refine his soul; dissolution set him free from the body of sin and death ; the grave take back his earthly dress; but for his spirit, he has the promise, that though he be dead, yet shall he live; and living and believing in Christ, he shall never die.
Yes, against his renewed and spiritual nature, purified as it has become from the pollution of sin, and the admixture of earthly and material elements, there is no noxious influence that can prevail. Death, the last enemy, takes but its own, and leaves him to himself. Whatever of evil exists in the wide creation, to him it is neutralized and rendered harmless; and life and death, things present, and things to come, are all his, because he is Christ's. Thus united to God, and reposing in the promises, the Christian who looks out upon the inheritance which awaits him, is often impatient of the ties which bind him to the earth. He longs for the summons which will set him free; having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. Nor are these merely enthusiastic expectations and delusive hopes. If God be true, in whom he has believed; if that religion be divine which has been so abundantly confirmed; the moment which gives deliverance to the Christian spirit, is the beginning of a life whose joys we cannot estimate, and whose felicity shall never end. Freedom from all evil, fruiton of all good, the universe spread open as the scene